Gossip and Guns
Oupa Wijtse clearly married into a very large, loving, influential—if not sometimes feisty family when he married Ouma Hannie. Of the Heystek kids born to Jan and Anna Maria, two babies had died, but Hannie had ten other siblings in her life at least until just before the Second Boer War. Her siblings were very dear to her. Younger sister Emmie’s letters reveal quite a bit of “skinder nuus” as she wrote about her own family history. Uncles and aunts abounded in the area, since Hannie’s maternal grandparents and their families were part of the Groot Trek-participants and their descendants helped with the new Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek’s formation and settlement. Hannie’s Grandma Malan in particular had some “interesting” family, looked up to by many and honored as survivors of bloody old battles, leaders in the new battles to come.
One such a family member was Oom Hercules Malan (younger brother of Hannie’s grandma Helena Malan, who also grew up without his father—the latter had died at Italeni with Piet Uys, another story). Oom Hercules had a cattle farm in the Pilansberg area at the time of the Heystek children growing up. At some stage Oom Hercules asked Hannie’s father, Jan Heystek, to please move into a nearby house with his family, ostensibly to help with the education of the children, but Emmie reckoned that the real reason was so that her mother Anna Marie could help take care of Hercules’ kids, since his wife, Annie, and his kids fought constantly… Apparently Tant Annie had such a temper that she and “Hans” (I have no idea who he is), would throw stones at one another (whaaat!?) and the housekeeper, “aia Seret”, had to intervene, to great amusement of Emmie and “Lenie” (also no idea who that was). Aia Seret kept order in the Malan house, there was little respect for Tant Annie’s lack of care. According to Emmie, of course. “Hans” often stayed over at the Heystek house. This family state of affairs carried on until Jan Heystek was appointed to the post of public prosecutor in Rustenburg in May of 1889.
Oom Hercules was much more in charge of the affairs of his “volk", as seen for instance in the document that he drew up in December 1880 as Chairman of the Boer Delegates that met to resolve issues with the British officials in charge of the then-three-year annexation of the Transvaal. This amazing document contained resolutions that framed the Peace Convention signed in March 1881, ending the First Anglo Boer War (December 1880 - March 1881). Hercules also fought in this war and apparently played an important role as a Boer commandant in the Siege of Pretoria. (What that role was I am still trying to find). I will post an English copy of this document separately. It reveals the frame of mind and a lot about the character of the Afrikaners (called the Dutch by the English) at that time.
In another instance Hercules intervened in the capture and surrender of the Jameson Raiders who had snuck into the country from Rhodesia in January 1896 to help foment a staged uprising at the Johannesburg gold mines. In his own sworn testimony before the Z.A.R. State Attorney and ex-oficio J.P. on the 9th of March, 1896 Hercules states: “I was together with P.A. Cronjé, Commandant of the Krugersdorp District, one of the commanding forces in the fights against Jameson. On the morning of January 2, a dispatch rider from Commandant Potgieter came up and informed me that Jameson had hoisted the white flag, and that I must quickly attend a meeting with the other commandants. When I came up to Jameson I found Cronjé and Potgieter there; and, as I saw that Cronjé had been speaking to Jameson, I asked Cronjé 'What is the subject you have been speaking about? I also wish to know it.' Cronjé told me that he had agreed with
Jameson that Jameson would pay the expenses incurred by the State, and that he (Cronjé) would spare the lives of Jameson and his people till Pretoria was reached. Thereupon I answered, 'We cannot make any terms here. We have not the power to do so. Jameson must surrender unconditionally, and we can only guarantee his life until he is delivered over by us into the hands of the Commandant-General. Then he will have to submit to the decision of the Commandant-General and the Government.' When I had said this, Commandant Potgieter answered, 'I agree with that.' And Commandant Cronjé said, 'So be it, brothers.' Thereupon the interpreter (Adendorff) was instructed to translate to Jameson what had been spoken. He did so. Jameson thereupon took off his hat, bowed, and replied in English that he agreed thereto. Jameson then ordered Willoughby, who was present from the moment that I arrived, to command the subordinate officers to disarm the men, and thereupon the arms were given up.” Jameson then surrendered to Hercules Malan.
Hercules had just started fighting in the Second Anglo Boer War when he contracted a stomach illness and died on December the 4th 1899.